Bilingualism and writing: the case of Beckett and Cioran (from French)

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Nov 9, 2018 15:10
Bilingualism and writing: the case of Beckett and Cioran (from French)

(...) Instead, Cioran learned French during his studies and arrived in Paris in 1937 (he was 26). He was supposed to write a dissertation on Bergson but he preferred to travel by bicycle across the Country. During his staying in Paris, he wrote, in Romanian, Amurgul gandurilor (The Twilight of the Thought) and between 1941 and 1944, Indrepar Patimas (published in 1993 with the title 'Breviary of the losers'). But this was only 10 years after he decided to change language. Several times he recalled that he settled at the seaside of Dieppe, and striving to translate Mallarme` in Romanian, he suddenly realized that his efforts were in vain. Among all the versions he gave of the event, the more dramatized is that one of Gabriel Liicenau: "All of sudden, I realized that this matter was meaningless, that I will never come back to Romania and that Romanian was of no use for me...In one hour, it was over. It was a violent reaction. In a moment, I broke up with everything: with my language, with my past, with everything"
The fact that two adult writers choose to abandon their first language, a language that is called "maternal", invites to question such a choice. Beckett didn`t never clarify the reasons that bought him to change language. The famous joke "to be noted" is not more convincing than those advanced by his very controversial biographer Deirde Bair: the impossibility to find an English publisher brought him to try his luck in French. By the critics excessively devoted to the writer, the choice of French was mostly interpreted as that one of a language of exile, adopted against the mother tongue. According to Erika Ostrovsky, it is matter of "a brutal act that cuts the writer off from his roots ... causes a diminution in his powers, a wanted mutilation, even desired".
Writing in French corresponds to a voluntary mutilation, which seems corroborated by the words of the writer. To Beckett, French presented 'a form of weakness' which confirms his fascination for classic authors:" They had any style, they write without a style, they donate us a method, the brightness, the precious daisy. It may be that only the French language can give you what you desire".
Such an appreciation, for disconcerting that it may be, doesn`t explain much,- let`s face it-(too informal, I know!).
Among the interpretations proposed, two seems to me more convincing. The first one is psychoanalytic and links the abandonment of English to familiar conflicts. All the readers of Becket have knowledge of the (his?) horror for birth and procreation, and know to what extent the maternal figure is hated. "I am looking for my mother to kill her , but I had to think about it before coming to life" (it was) read in "The Unnameable", and Molloy evokes:"that one that gives me life, from the hole of her ass, if I well remember" the repugnant Countess Caca deaf as a a pot, whom he dips into the skull to squeeze out the money. But, if the biological birth constitutes a punishment received without a second thought, that one who writes can, at least, refuse the fate he was destined to and that has not chosen: "I stuck to a language, which they imagine that I can`t ever utilize without recognizing me in their tribe, a god trick. I am going to arrange for them some gibberish"
Choosing another language, allows generally to break free from the family tutelage, and, at the same time, to invest in new intellectual domains, relieving the individual from an unbearable stress, exercising itself notably in the domain of sexuality. Changing the language allows to reject all the things that one finds imposed by family and society.